US sanctions South African pilots for taking training jobs with the Chinese Air Force

With affirmative action restricting military careers, many have looked abroad to remunerate their skills. But the new Cold War may impose new barriers. Some face extradition





Jul 4, 2024

US sanctions South African pilots for taking training jobs with the Chinese Air Force

The United States has expanded economic sanctions targeting firms involved in training Chinese military pilots. The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) on 2 July added six aerospace companies to its "Entity List," citing risks to US national security.

These sanctions impose export restrictions and licensing requirements under US law. Among the affected firms are Grace Air, based in South Africa, and England's Livingston Aerospace. Both are linked to the Test Flying Academy of South Africa (TFASA), which was sanctioned in 2023 for allegedly training Chinese military pilots.

The case has drawn attention to former US Marine and Australian citizen Daniel Duggan, who is facing extradition to the US. He is accused of training Chinese military pilots in 2012, including teaching aircraft carrier landings, which he denies, stating he believed he was training civilian pilots. His family claims the US is using him as a cautionary example to deter other ex-military personnel from similar activities.

A US military memo warned Western ex-military against taking lucrative offers to train Chinese pilots, noting that such recruitment often disguises the involvement of China’s People’s Liberation Army.

Grace Air, headed by Jean Jacques Rossouw, and Livingston Aerospace, led by former RAF pilot Craig Penrice, are now subject to these restrictions. TFASA denies providing classified military training and claims to operate within legal bounds.

Beijing has been rapidly expanding its military capabilities, including advanced fighter jets like the Chengdu J-20. The BIS alleges TFASA used Western sources to train China's military. Livingston Aerospace and Grace Air's connections to TFASA triggered their inclusion on the Entity List.

Additional entities sanctioned include two Chinese firms and two UAE-based companies, Mega Fast Cargo and Mega Technique General Trading, for their involvement in unauthorized military advancements and violating trade restrictions related to Russia.

US officials claim China recruits Western military talent through private firms, offering lucrative contracts. This practice raises significant security concerns in Washington, prompting the latest round of sanctions.

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